Beacon editorial in poor taste, ignored crucial facts

by Beacon Staff • March 4, 2009

I was disappointed to read iThe Beacon/i editorial ("Ross doesn't want you to live with your Friends," Feb. 26) that compares a proposed amendment to the University Accountability law to the actions of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis against Jews in Europe during World War II. Your editorial was in particularly poor taste, given that my father survived 10 concentration camps during the Holocaust and lost his entire family. This insensitive comparison distracts from the opportunity to have a fair exchange of ideas, which I welcome the opportunity to do.

As a city councilor, it is my job to preserve the communities I represent. When I see long-time residents and fourth-generation families being displaced from their community, my job is to stand up, take notice and take action.

Moreover, I truly believe that my effort will not hurt, but help students. Better enforcement of this law will ensure that landlords provide a better living environment for students by not causing overcrowding in any one unit. More importantly, it will allow students who graduate from area colleges to remain in Boston. Neighborhoods currently dominated by student-only housing will change as a result of this law, and allow for entry- level apartments and condominiums for new graduates, instead of losing them to other cities.

The landlords who have converted small units into pseudo-dorms aren't doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They have tripled and quadrupled profits on the backs of students, and have managed to fool them into thinking this is good. When a 3-bedroom apartment is converted to a 6-bedroom apartment, the rent does not go down. The landlord does not re-apportion the savings among the individual student tenants. Rather, he charges each occupant nearly the same amount and pockets the profits.

The result is that properties that were worth $300,000 just five years ago are now worth three to five times that amount today, simply because of their value in the student rental market. This drives up the tax base of the buildings surrounding these pseudo-dorms, sending neighbors packing. Perhaps just as important, however, is that it makes it nearly impossible for students to find affordable housing after graduation. Students are critical to our city, but keeping them here after graduation is of even greater importance.

Cities need to revive. They need to replenish their citizens. Currently, this city cannot do so as our neighborhood apartments have become gridlocked with transient housing. The key to keeping Boston's communities vibrant is maintaining their diversity. College students play a valuable role in the local economy, and bring energy in neighborhoods like Mission Hill and Allston-Brighton.

However when any one population-be it student, professional or familial-takes over a neighborhood and makes it homogeneous, our city suffers. I invite you to contact my office with your ideas on what the Boston City Council can do to make Boston a better city for students.

i- Michael Ross

President

Boston City Council/i